Self Defense Tools: Guns vs. Tasers vs. Pepper Spray vs. Blunt Objects & Edged Weapons

Published by the Author on May 11, 2008 at 5:45 pm > Guns 101 > Self Defense Tools: Guns vs. Tasers vs. Pepper Spray vs. Blunt Objects & Edged Weapons

Although this site is dedicated to firearms, I thought I would post an effectiveness comparison of the various self defense tools.  These are guns, Tasers, pepper spray, and edges/blunt objects.

Pros: The most effective way to stop an attacker yet invented by humans.  Works up close, and at a distance.  Can be less expensive than a Taser.
Cons: More expensive than pepper spray.

I consider firearms to be the most effective means of self defense.  This is because a gun can reach out and stop an attacker from across the room, or when they are only inches away.  A gun allows more “shots” than a Taser (which usually only offer 1 or 2), and wind/close quarters wont’ cause the gun to incapacitate its owner the way pepper spray can.  Guns work by disrupting an attacker’s vital organs in such as way to to physically stop them from continuing their attack.  This means that an attacker cannot become desensitized to bullets the way they could become desensitized to the pain and irritation from pepper spray.  Thick clothing is generally not bulletproof, while a thick leather coat could defeat a Taser.  A separate article discusses the selection of a gun for home defense.

Pros: Sometimes allowed in areas where gun are banned.  Virtually no risk to bystanders.
Cons: Limited capacity for follow-up shots, limited ability to penetrate thick clothing, reduced effectiveness at keeping an attacker down

Tasers and similar stun gun devices either propel a pair of dart-tipped electric wires toward the attacker, or rely upon the Taser being placed in contact with the attacker.  An electric charge is then delivered to the attacker, in order to incapacitate them.  Leaving aside the controversy regarding the safety of Tasers, I’ll address their effectiveness in self defense.  My thoughts are that while Tasers are more effective than pepper spray, and sure beat throwing rocks, they are less effective than guns.  This is because of their limited capacity for follow-up shots in the event of miss, their reduced ability to penetrate thick clothing, and their reduced effectiveness at keeping an attacker down.
Unlike firearms, which often have magazines which hold 6 to 20 rounds, Tasers typically hold 1 or 2 shots.  When a law abiding citizen is awoken in the night by a home invader, the combination of having just awoken, the dark, and stress can make even the most accurate person miss.  Having the extra shots that most firearms provide can mean the difference between life and death.  I also believe that Tasers are less effective than firearms due to their limited ability to penetrate clothing.  If a home invader were to break in wearing a heavy leather jacket, with additional clothing underneath, the Taser’s darts might not penetrate, while a bullet would penetrate and stop the attacker.  Finally, the ability of an attacker to get back up after being Tasered concerns me.  Since the amount of time that a Taser will incapacitate a person varies by individual, a Tased individual could get back up and continue their attack, possibly at a time when the home owner is unable to Taser them again.
For those reasons, I believe that a gun is a better self defense tool than a Taser, but that is not to say that Tasers are a bad thing for self defense.  I would much rather have a Taser than, say, a baseball bat, a pointy stick, or a bucket full of rocks :).  Tasers do have the great advantage of virtually no risk to innocent bystanders.  While a bullet can pass through a wall and kill an innocent bystander, Tasers won’t injure those on the other side of a wall.

ALSO READ:  Firing options and thinking out of the box - by Mark LeClair

Pepper Spray
Pepper Spray
Pros: Inexpensive, Low risk to bystanders.
Cons: Less effective than a gun or a Taser, risk of blowback onto the user.

The active ingredient in pepper spray is capsaicin, which is the chemical compound that makes peppers spicy.  Pepper spray is a concentrated form of capsaicin, and some pepper sprays also include tear gas.  When pepper spray contact the eyes, nose, mouth, and even skin of an attacker, it causes swelling and pain, which is intended to incapacitate the attacker.  While pepper spray can be effective, I consider pepper spray less effective than a gun because it is shorter ranged, and because it relies upon the attacker feeing enough pain to make them want to quit the attack.  While some pepper sprays claim an effective reach of 20 feet, this is still well short of that which any gun offers, and many pepper sprays will only work effectively at much closer distances.  Pepper spray can cause swelling and involuntary closing of the eyes in some people, however there are plenty of people who can continue to attack even after being pepper sprayed, or whose eyes are swollen closed but continue to blindly attack.  Attackers under the influence of drugs may be virtually immune from the effects of pepper spray as well.  A final concern is the risk of blowback or contamination.  Pepper spray can be blown back on to the person who used it, and it can be transferred by physical touch.  This could leave the law abiding citizen incapacitated at the worst possible time (and some people, such as those with asthma, are especially sensitive to pepper spray).  Like Tasers, pepper spray does have the huge advantage of not endangering the lives of nearby innocent bystanders the way a firearm can, should the shooter miss and send a bullet through a wall to an occupied room.

ALSO READ:  Oak Park Criminals Continue Armed Robberies - despite the longstanding handgun ban

Blunt or Edged Objects
Pros: Often inexpensive and easily acquired
Cons: Generally the least effective option for self defense

Tools such as baseball bats, golf clubs knives, swords, are melee weapons, rather than the ranged weapons discussed above.  As such, blunt or edged weapons require that the person using these weapons get very close to the criminal.  Since the criminal will often have a gun, the person defending themselves may be shot before they can even get close enough to their attacker to act in self defense.  For example, if a criminal breaks in and points a gun at a home owner from across the room, a baseball bat is not of much help.  Similarly, if a criminal breaks in and surprises a home owner who is in their bed, a golf club is not going to save that person.  Also, these weapons rely upon the user having sufficient physical strength and room to swing the object.  This means that an 85 year old woman would likely not be able to use a baseball bat to defend herself – but she could effectively use a gun.

There is a reason that police and the military have guns, rather than relying exclusively upon pepper spray, Tasers, or blunt/edged objects – and that reason is that guns remain the most effective means of stopping a violent attacker.  That is not to say that Tasers, Pepper spray, and blunt or edged objects don’t have their place, but in a life or death situation I would prefer a gun over any of those choices.  If you are unsure which home defense gun to select, this article may help.  If gun safety is unfamiliar to you, see this article.  If you are concerned about overpenetration of bullets in a home defense situation, this article may help.  In some limited situations where guns were not allowed, or where the risk of overpenetration by bullets was extreme, pepper spray or a Taser could be the next-best option to a gun.

Join the NRA today and do your part to help preserve our gun rights (and save $10).

Tags for this article: , , , , ,

  • Mort Adella

    Taser and gun combo. Tase the intruder, then hold him at gunpoint while calling the police and waiting for the police to arrive.


      While that approach might work some of the time, it entails increased risk for the crime victim. The fact is that Tasers don't always subdue the attacker, as this cop learned:… Trying to juggle the use of two weapons may also be a recipe for disaster when facing the already-difficult and stressful situation that is a home invasion.

      Why should a homeowner endanger their life to try and avoid harming a violent intruder?

  • Max

    Dual-wield the tasers. Double the shots 😀

    I'm also really averse to the conservative doctrine of "criminals/attackers deserve to die", "who cares if you kill your attacker", and so forth. We should be using non-lethal force whenever possible. Unless of course he already raped my (hypothetical) wife. In which case maybe he does deserve to die, in my eyes at least.

    That female cop with a taser was an untrained retard in combat, but a minimal amount of wrestling experience could have prevented her stupidity.

    • KnightDWF

      But not every “non-lethal” option is an option in every instance. Using pepper spray or other chemical option in a small area may incapacitate everyone else around you, including yourself, if you get it on you or get splash back! A taser may work on a lightly clothed person, but it does NOT have penetrating power! If person is whacked out of their mind on drugs, neither pepper spray or a taser may faze them!

  • Taser Me

    You bet, use taser when you can. Give them the Hydra-Shok taser with .45 ACP 230grain, JHP, Federal Premium, Personal Defense. Some people may claim the Hydra-Shok bullet is designed to have minimum penetration and maximum stopping power for a very effective defensive tool.

  • cutlass126

    I believe tasers make an effective weapon when used properly and may decrease the use of deadly force. They sometimes get bad press, but with a gun dead is dead; with a taser the person survives except in some unusual circumstances. I for one am for carrying a taser for self defense and protection!

  • Anonymous

    I have a DIY Yawara with a pocket clip. In the comparison, that would fall under the blunt edged object. There are places where guns are not allowed. Actually, in certain situations, a person with a knife (or a melee weapon or blunt or edged object such as my Yawara) can actually have advantage over a person with a gun Take the 21 foot rule for example. Having something is better than nothing plus your best weapon is your mind. If you think a gun, pepper spray, tazer, knife, Yawara, etc. is your prime weapon, you’re screwed. These things mentioned are tools and opportunities you have if such a need arises. But education, the mind and awareness trumps all when it comes to self defense.

  • Anonymous

    I now have pepper spray and my makeshift (DIY) kubotan (which in this article would fall under the label of “blunt objects”) that has a pocket clip. I carry them both wherever I go. But my mind and education trumps all when it comes to self defense. For example, if someone has a gun that is trying to kill me, I would first dodge the gun in the zigzag style while coming to him. While doing that, I would take out my pepper spray and spray him in the face. By that time, the thug with the gun would be blinded and affected by pepper spray so he would miss more with his gun. Then, while still dodging the gun, I would take out my kubotan and run to him quickly while dodging the gun and then strike the thug down with the kubotan.
    Until I can afford a gun, this would have to do. Even when i do get a gun (which in my choice would be a revolver with speed-loaders), my mind would still trump all when it comes to self defense. I would still carry pepper spray when I am going to places where guns are not allowed (for example, the mall and the university).

    • Brett

      or if a person pulls a gun, realize your life is not worth whatever he is after and either run away (most criminals would not shoot a victim that is running away) or give him whatever he is after and step back

      • KnightDWF

        Read a book called On Killing… If someone runs away, they are often MORE LIKELY to be killed because you become “prey” to them. If you have sufficient time or distance to make hitting you less likely, then running might be an option. But, if you are in the dead zone, with a criminal or killer facing you with a gun pointed at you, just running and fleeing may be more likely to get you killed!

  • Peter Smythe

    Two factors that are often overlooked:

    Comfort: how easily can you bring the weapon everywhere you face potential harm? Studies show that people DON’T bring annoyingly large weapons everywhere. This means long guns and larger handguns are of no value outside of home defense.

    Consequences: You can internally rationalize pepper spray pretty easily against someone who’s merely getting up-close and personal or giving suggestive threats that are not explicit. Same with someone who you tell to back off because they’re creeping you out and seem to be following you, even if they just approach. You cannot do that with a gun or you’ll be thrown in prison and probably, if you’re not a sociopath, feel remorse for years to come. With a gun, you pretty much have to wait until there’s no question that they plan to seriously harm you, or do one of several things that seriously imply that they could harm you. Basically, if it’s not obvious they’re trying to kidnap, rape, hurt, or kill you, and they’re not breaking into your house, you’re probably going to get felony charges and a bad case of remorse. Even if they are, can you, you personally, justify shooting someone in the head? Would you hesitate? This is where nonlethal weapons (TASERs, mace, stun guns, and possibly batons) are helpful. If you aren’t willing to kill them with little hesitation, a gun is not the weapon for you. If they are not currently giving a threat of serious bodily harm, you can’t ethically or legally fire your weapon.

  • AZDiver

    This article leaves out THE BIGGEST “con” argument against a gun for self-defense: That unless the owner has undergone EXTENSIVE and REPEATED training, chances are that a) an armed attacker are much more likely and much quicker to shoot first, and b) the very real possibility of them wrestling the gun from you, and when that happens, your gun is the worst possible self defense item you could possibly carry. Just something to think about.